H-1B visas have long been the U.S. employment visa of choice due to their flexibility for professionals to work in “specialty occupations”. Lately, however, for those employers and prospective employees who are subject to the annual numerical “cap” on H-1Bs, the demand so far outstrips the quota that petitions must be filed in the first week of each April in order to be included in a lottery from which a limited number will be selected for employment beginning the following October 1st.
This alert is a reminder of the April 3, 2017, deadline for the filing of H-1B visa petitions for Fiscal Year 2018. Petitions for the new fiscal year, which will be effective starting on or after October 1, 2017, will be accepted by the Government beginning April 3, 2017. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to accept new H-1B petitions after April 3rd, but only until USCIS determines that a sufficient number has been received – which in recent years has occurred on the fifth business day of April.
Congress has placed a numerical cap on H-1B visas. For FY 2018, the limit again is 65,000 cap-subject H-1B visas, with an additional 20,000 H-1B visas available for individuals who have earned a Master’s degree or higher from an accredited U.S. educational institution. As in previous years, we expect USCIS to stop accepting petitions within the first five business days of April, whereupon those petitions accepted for the “advanced U.S. degree” quota will be entered into a random lottery, and those unselected will be entered with all other accepted petitions into the “regular”, larger random lottery. Therefore, we advise employers to make H-1B sponsorship decisions and to prepare the H-1B petitions as early as possible, and well before April 1st, so that a complete petition can be submitted to USCIS on the first day that filings can be received.
We encourage you to identify any employees or prospective employees who may require H-1B visa sponsorship as soon as possible. This may include individuals who were not selected in previous H-1B lotteries, F-1 students, previous J-1 trainees, L-1 employees facing long green card delays, or other employees whose work authorization may be in jeopardy under the incoming Administration. Once the H-1B cap has been reached, employers will be unable to file new cap-subject, H-1B petitions until April 1, 2018, for a start date of October 1, 2018.
We will work with you to file H-1B petitions right up until April 3rd, and afterward, for as long as H-1B visas are available. Again, we strongly advise clients to finalize their H-1B petition decisions as early as possible.